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Transforming CO2 and Sugars into Biofuel

With a $2.7 million grant, UD researchers using microbes to make valuable chemicals

by | June 21, 2021

Photo by Evan Krape
Prof. Eleftherios (Terry) Papoutsakis

Eleftherios (Terry) Papoutsakis is the Unidel Eugene Du Pont Chair of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Delaware.

In the quest to reduce carbon emissions into the atmosphere and curb climate change, University of Delaware researchers are turning to an interesting ally: bacteria that consume biomass sugars and CO2.

With a $2.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), UD Professor Eleftherios (Terry) Papoutsakis is developing a system to produce bioenergy from a mix of microbes that can convert carbon dioxide into useful chemicals. He is collaborating with Nicholas Sandoval, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at Tulane University and a postdoc UD alumnus, Marianthi Ierapetritou, the Gore Centennial Chair in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at UD, and another UD postdoctoral alumnus Shawn Jones, who is now a process and development manager at Arkion Life Sciences.

This project is one of 15 recently funded by the Department of Energy to decrease carbon emissions in biorefining processes through the ARPA-E ECOSynBio program. According to the agency, these ECOSynBio projects will “develop technologies to explore innovative synthetic fermentation and biorefining processes that can be used across the range of energy, transportation, and agriculture spaces anywhere where biorefining is used to make processes more efficient and lower carbon emissions.”